JACKSONVILLE — In the blink of an eye, an assassin's bullet marked the end of an era for millions of Americans, who saw their leader shot down in the streets of Dallas.
Half a century has passed since the death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, but his legacy lives on, say East Texans who remember the tragedy.
“We all drink from wells we never dug, and warm ourselves from fires we never built,” said Bishop Edmond Carmody, a Roman Catholic bishop emeritus who now serves the Diocese of Tyler, which covers a 33-county area of Northeast Texas. “We are beneficiaries of John Kennedy – the vision, the excitement, the possibility of (being someone) from a family who really came from nothing, but became president of a nation.”
Carmody, who in 1963 was a young priest assigned to a parish in San Antonio, remembers the excitement surrounding JFK's visit to Brooks Air Force Base the day before that fateful day in North Texas.
Many Catholics, like himself, were excited by the earlier election of Kennedy, the nation's first Catholic president.
“Back in those days, there was an awful lot of controversy” over JFK's faith, “a very big worry among non-Catholics that he would be governed by Rome,” the bishop recalled, adding that however, by assuring people in a campaign speech in Houston that he found no contradiction between “conscience and constitution,” he allayed many of those fears.
Kennedy was young, a fresh leader with innovative and exciting ideas, and South Texans were thrilled by his visit.
“It was exciting when he showed up … and when the word came over the news that the president was shot (the next day in Dallas), there was an outpouring of prayers for him,” the bishop recollected, adding that when Kennedy's death was announced, “it devasted everyone all over the world. And it still does.”